Amnesty International: Illegal Detensions in Pakistan
The Associated Press
International Herald Tribune: September 29, 2006
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has accused Pakistan's government of illegally detaining innocent people on suspicion of terrorism, secretly imprisoning them and transferring them to U.S. custody for money.
Hundreds of Pakistanis and foreigners have been rounded up on suspicion of links to terrorism since the U.S.-led war on terror started after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Amnesty International said in a report released Friday in Islamabad.
"The war on terror has added a new layer of human rights violations to the existing patterns of abuses (in Pakistan)," said Angelika Pathak, an Amnesty International researcher who helped prepare the report, titled "Human Rights Ignored in the War on Terror."
"The phenomenon of enforced disappearance was virtually unknown before the war on terror," she said.
The human rights group suggested that the lure of U.S. government rewards had led in many cases to illegal arrests of people, including women and children, in Pakistan.
Pakistan also has its own bounty program that provides money for the capture of suspected terrorists, which the report did not take into consideration.
"Bounty hunters — including police officers and local people — have captured individuals of different nationalities, often apparently at random, and sold them into U.S. custody," said Claudio Cordone, senior director of research at Amnesty International.
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam rejected the allegation that Pakistan illegally detained people in exchange for money.
"Whenever we arrest any foreign terror suspect, we try to send him back to the country he belongs," she told The Associated Press. "In most of the cases, such suspects are not accepted by their own government."
"Naturally, we cannot keep them here," she said.
Amnesty International's allegations, based largely on interviews with one-time detainees, come days after the country's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said in his memoir that Pakistan had captured 689 al-Qaida terror suspects, and turned over 369 to Washington.
"We have earned bounties totaling millions of dollars," Musharraf wrote in his book, "In the Line of Fire," without specifying how much was paid.
Cordone said in a statement that many people detained in Pakistan ended up in secret locations or at U.S. prisons, including Guantanamo Bay and Bagram, north of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
"Hundreds of people have been picked up in mass arrests, many have been sold to the USA as 'terrorists' simply on the word of their captor, and hundreds have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Air base or secret detention centers run by the USA," he said.
"The road to Guantanamo very literally starts in Pakistan," he said.
For the Amnesty International report: click here